This morning I took my Saturn to be repaired at a mechanic’s shop about a mile from home. After dropping it off I walked back to the house.
It is always a delight to walk a route one has driven many times, always a surprise to see the details one misses driving by in an auto. This morning I passed a barber shop I had barely noted before, then turned back to look at the front window.
There was a sort of shrine to Cory Endlich, a young Army sergeant from my town who had died in Iraq in 2007. Taped on to the window was a photo of the smiling young man in his crisp uniform. Beside that was an editorial cartoon from the local paper, with a tiger (my football-crazed town’s mascot) shedding tears before a flag at half mast. Above that was a sticker with the caption “Freedom Isn’t Free” and to the left of the display was an Army recruiter’s poster, promising big money for enlistment, help with college, and free medical care for enlistees and their families, all attractive to a kid from a rust belt town like this.
I wondered if anyone besides me questioned this juxtaposition, if anyone really believed that if Cory Endlich- or any of the other thousands of Americans and tens or hundreds of thousands of Iraqis- had not died the good people of Massillon Ohio would indeed be living under the tyrannical dictatorship of Saddam Hussein. The scenario is in fact wildly improbable. Further, it is pretty unlikely that Iraq would be any worse off than it is right now, almost nine years after the American invasion.
“Freedom isn’t Free” may indeed be a truth, but in this context it is the lie we tell ourselves so we can bear reality. “Corporate Empire isn’t Free” would be unbearable. “Hubris isn’t Free” would make us scream.
Freedom may not be free, but propaganda is. The Big Lie is. We swallow it eagerly, lest we go crazy.
I noted, as I walked away,that the sign said that Cory Endlich was born, appropriately, in 1984.